But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? - Malachi 3:2a (NRSV)
I love to walk into an older sanctuary with trappings that have become increasingly rare. Solid pews bolted to the floor in seating patterns that current church attendance does not support. Stained glass windows with imagery that we would design more inclusively today. Still, something about the craft and care that went into these pieces, when installed, tell me a story about a people who loved God and their church and wanted to reflect this in their giving.
I especially delight in sanctuaries with kneelers before each pew. Sometimes we pull it down across the row in a loud “thud.” Other times congregations gave a more silent way of pulling out a support for resting on knees that could take it and arms folded in piety and prayer. It is these sanctuaries that get my most frequent visits.
I love to kneel in prayer because I kneel so infrequently. It is not a regular practice in my life, too uncomfortable, too stressful on these aging, drying bones. I kneel and fold my hands and pray something like this:
Come, Lord Jesus.
“Who can stand when he appears?” the messenger Malachi asks.
Our national discourse on when we stand and when we bend the knee seems to have forgotten something crucial:
Those of us whose bodies can take it need to practice the act of kneeling. Who can stand in the face of more than we can handle? Who can stand at the power that overwhelms? Who can stand all day long?
When we can, whenever we can, we do well when we opt to bend the knee, fold our hands in prayer. We do our best when we kneel to no god but God alone, to lean not on our own feet but on the power of the One who calls us to humble supplication in the first place.
Come, Lord Jesus. O Come.
I am overwhelmed by the power of your love, God. O come, Lord Jesus, come. Receive the gesture of my humility with my love and thanks. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.